Tag Archives: 6.08

The Americans 6.08 “The Summit” Review: Ill Communication

17 May

Communication is essential to a good marriage. It is one of the core pieces of advice that has been consistently dispensed in magazines, self-help books and in many conversations you have before you get married. Communication is also really important if you work in the spy business. Whether getting information from a source or relaying it an effective manner, being effective at dispensing intel is a vital work skill to have. Philip and Elizabeth Jennings are very good spies. They are not always the best communicators when it comes to their relationship, as we have seen during six seasons of The Americans.

King and Queen of the wordless conversation; however when it comes to using their words, they could do better.Compartmentalizing is a skill required in a job that involves this much violence, lying, sleeping around and maintaining a double life, but it has often led to the greatest fractures between Philip and Elizabeth. Prior to this final season, their marriage had been in its strongest and now legally binding place. The flashback to the secret ‘just for them’ ceremony last week makes even more sense in context of “The Summit” opening scene. Because holy shit, Philip spills all about his Oleg betrayal and it goes over about as well as expected.

The last time Philip kept something from Elizabeth was when he slept with Irina in season 1, which ended in temporary separation. This cuts even deeper because it isn’t just about lying about sleeping with an ex. It is about their work, their life. He has been spying on her, reporting his findings to someone they don’t even know. It doesn’t matter that his reasons were for the good of their country, he has been lying for two months now. Pointing out that he tried to tell her on a couple of occasions—dude you really didn’t try that hard—is far from a valid excuse.

Dead bodies and tooth extractions are nothing in comparison to the pain in this scene. They have been together for over twenty years, which means they can communicate through nothing more than facial expressions. But words don’t come so easy. They let it hit breaking point before addressing an issue. Here it took Philip having to cut off someone’s head and hands before he tackled the problem head on (no pun intended).

Over this season he has been trying to reason with Elizabeth, but neither of them have been in possession of all the information; Philip didn’t know exactly what or why Elizabeth was racking up a high body count, Elizabeth didn’t know that she is being used as a way to get Gorbachev out of office. Again the speech Elizabeth gave to Tuan at the end of last season comes into play; they are so much better when they are working together. Yes it was better for Philip’s mental well-being to get out, but it has been at the cost of Elizabeth’s. There are so many moments in this opening scene that feel like a stab to the back for Elizabeth, it is also truly a pleasure to watch Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys in this scene, even though it is heartbreaking to see this relationship hit the point of almost no return. He can barely look at her at first, knowing full well how she will react. This is an act of infidelity. The way Russell says “And?” at the mention of Oleg’s information request, followed by the sucking in of her cheeks is chilling for anyone who has been on the Philip end of this conversation. Again, the spy stuff is not relatable, but the essence of this conversation is universal.

The calm tone, the measured words all initially mask the anger at this betrayal. A prelude to her spitting out, “go to hell!” Or when he makes sure he mentions that he told Oleg she was amazing and loyal. Like she wants to laugh at how he tries to find absolution in a compliment.* That ain’t gonna work buddy.

*I just rewatched this opening scene because it’s truly stunning. You notice something new every time. After that attempt at buttering up Elizabeth, Keri Russell does this amazing thingwhere she stops an eye roll midway through it. The gut punch sound when Philip reveals just how long all of this has been going on. It’s all just so good. And so heart-wrenching. 

Honestly, I could go line-by-line, but I won’t. It is that good. In fact this entire episode should be Keri Russell’s Emmy submission because the things she does with her face. There aren’t enough words to describe just how good she is at showing the swirling conflict within Elizabeth.A season of every operation going bad with an ever growing body count is going to take its toll. While Elizabeth doesn’t spend much time with her husband in this episode, his words gnaw away at her. They aren’t always great communicators, but now his voice is inside her head. That statement about getting her to think about what she is doing, why she is doing it, is so important to in Elizabeth’s decision making throughout “The Summit.” This is why they were such an effective team; she would react on instinct, he would question their orders. You need both.  He tells her he would do anything for he, he just did. Nothing says romantic overture quite like dismembering someone so you can protect your identity. But he has hit his breaking point.

“You don’t think I’m a human being?” The hurt in her voice at her interpretation of what Philip said is clear, but even if she hasn’t understood what he said right away, her actions over this season have been pretty extreme, even for Elizabeth Jennings. Her body count stands at eight—nine if you count Rennhull—she could have added another two to this tally this week, but something stopped her. And that something was probably this conversation. That eight does include Erica, which isn’t really fair as this one was out of kindness. Using Erica’s paintbrush is poetic, even if this scene is incredibly hard to watch.Another incredible moment in face parts acting from Russell, Erica like Young-Hee before her tapped into a side of Elizabeth we never really see. The kind of bond that Philip developed too easily with is sources, Elizabeth fights against. Again, this is why they are so good together. They complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Orders come from above, but they pull the trigger. They take the knife and shove it in the jugular. Not the Centre. They are not just a mindless automaton, they are the ones who ultimately make a choice to kill or not kill. It is why Elizabeth doesn’t go through with her orders to kill Nesterenko. It is why she doesn’t kill not-Chalamet* aka Jackson the intern. With Jackson she has already seduced him; he has delivered what she needed him to do, even if he did take a peek inside the box discovering the recording device. She could easily kill him and no one would be any the wiser. Instead after a moment deliberating, she lets him go. The chin quiver trick has never worked on her before, but here she relents. It is sloppy of her to not tie up loose ends, but it is the human thing to do. Philip is in her head.

*At one point Elizabeth says “Later” to Jackson and it was impossible not to conjure up images of Armie Hammer cycling away

Nesterenko is saved (for now) because Elizabeth has listened to the tapes. He’s not dirty at all. He doesn’t deserve to die by Elizabeth’s hand. Philip’s confession was bad, but Claudia’s is a knife twist like no other. Elizabeth has always done what is asked of her, no questions. Now she wants to know. The stakes are so high. Claudia asks if she has lost her confidence, she scoffs at this notion. Instead her eyes are wide open.The look on her face as Claudia tells her everything about the plan to get Gorbachev out of office is again another Keri Russell showcase. The subtle flicker of betrayal as she finds out Claudia has been in on the whole Mexico plan the entire time, but she has been protecting Elizabeth—which I believe in a twisted way she does. Claudia is old school, everything we have learned about her in the Soviet History lessons for Paige this season has been preparing us for this. The way she looks at the TV when Gorbachev speaks is full of loathing. But Elizabeth is horrified that her work will be tampered with to make it look like Nesterenko is a traitor, that she is being used. Nesterenko is a good guy; he doesn’t deserve death by manipulation.

Elizabeth is warned not to throw away her many years of service over this. A threat she ignores. Not that there is any time for a warm and fuzzy make-up chat with her husband. She’s still super pissed off at him for fucking her over as well. He was disloyal to her in the name of their country, a tactic he hopes will soften things. Instead, Elizabeth is focused on the mission at hand; to get a message to Oleg, to stop Nesterenko from getting killed. Father Andrei wants to meet up, but she doesn’t have time for that. Little do they know that they are compromised in so many different ways.The garages they store things in—or burn things in, another heartbreaker of a scene—and a priest, maybe their priest has been singled out as being a potential lead. The priest Philip is now meeting up with. Stan has been watching the house; did he go to bed after Elizabeth got home? He will no doubt hear her leaving again.

Stan took photo of Elizabeth to one of Gergory’s guys who couldn’t positively ID her. All he remembers is her amazing hair and that she smoked like a chimney. It will be quite poetic after all this time (and the Felicity legacy) if Elizabeth’s hair is their downfall. The doubt continues to grow for Stan. Just two episodes left means a confrontation is coming sooner rather than later.

The Summit” is ripe for making viewers feel anxious, the tension is building, the match has been lit; we know how Gorbachev’s story will pan out, but these personal tales are still very much in play.

Movie of the WeekPhilip is adrift this week; his wife hates him, his son isn’t around to take his calls, he fired his most loyal employee. So as a distraction and a way to reconnect with his heritage, he rents a movie. But Philip has to put on a disguise to do so because he wants to rent Гараж (The Garage).  A movie that would be his downfall if Stan swung by unannounced. A movie Elizabeth only barely registers is on.

Employee of the Month

Ah, Stavos. Firing your oldest employee just before Thanksgiving is a dick move so it isn’t surprising to that Stavos won’t let Philip in. Philip tries to justify it by telling him the business is going under, he’s got out before the shit has truly hit the fan. The travel agency is of course mirroring the Soviet Union, Stavos is the Philip in this scenario. But he isn’t happier because he got out early. Also Stavos notes that he is aware of the dodgy backroom antics, to Philip’s surprise. But Stavos is loyal, unlike some. *mic drop*

What follows is a suit fitting, which feels so full of doom that I can barely bring myself to think about it.

A wall of Philip and Elizabeth sketches

This is a pretty good likeness to be honest. Philip and Elizabeth are so fucked.

Amazing artwork 

Miriam Shor has been incredible as Erica this season, but artist Alyssa Monks has been vital to this storyline. Her paintings are haunting and I’m so glad they got a lot of screen time this week. Even if ultimately Elizabeth did end up burning the one that tapped into her soul. Also, she definitely wishes she had asked for a smaller one.

The Good Wife and Entitlement: “I’m Marie Antoinette”

10 Nov

After the praise comes the negative feedback as Alicia hears the unfiltered thoughts of a focus group participant and spends the episode obsessing about it. While The Good Wife doesn’t go to the same lengths as Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation after a guy suggested something similar – he couldn’t see himself bowling or having a beer with Leslie – Alicia does learn some important campaign lessons from this incident while imbuing some very good advice to Cary also pertaining to an entitled attitude.

the good wife 6.08Every detail of Alicia’s life is being scrutinized from her religious affiliation to her achievements and her marriage is going to play a big part in someone’s general perception of her. For one older woman standing by Peter is a big tick in the Alicia column, whereas Sally a younger voter sees this as a negative point and she is the one who we see going back and forth on her Alicia opinions. Prior to Alicia announcing her candidacy the most anyone would know about her is from the press conference where she stood by Peter’s side and that was over five years ago; they are really reintroducing her to Chicago as a successful lawyer who has set up her own firm and for some it is hard to see beyond the woman who was all meek and pale while her husband admitted to sleeping with prostitutes.

A few weeks ago Alicia was getting nothing but praise as Eli was trying to convince her to run and this wasn’t just from a regular Sally, nope this was Valerie Jarrett and Gloria Steinem who were telling her she would make an excellent State’s Attorney. With Steinem it went a step further as she saw flashes of her bathed in a god like glow (mirroring the blue stage lights) telling her how amazing she is. This week they played with this notion of inner voice in a different way with an imagined version of Sally who made the initial entitled comment. In these scenarios she is both favorable and even more negative towards Alicia and while Alicia eye rolls at herself for this inner dialogue she still indulges in this behavior.

Negative comments like this that strike at the core of who Alicia is as a person are way more likely to cause obsession than if someone is complimentary so when Eli and Johnny tell her not to obsess about it this is a futile demand as all she can hear are the words ‘entitled’ and ‘selfish.’ And all she can see is this scrunched up face of disapproval:

the good wife 6.08Obsess is what Alicia does about these remarks and this calls for a chat with her new favorite drinking buddy who just so happens to be in his new office on the 27th floor. The current chair situation is the window sill so it’s a good thing Alicia brought her own glasses and whiskey. It is much quieter that their usual bar haunts and if a security photo of Finn leaving her building could harm her campaign couldn’t these very public bar meet ups do just the same amount for rumor stirring? I digress and Finn is currently confidant number one for checking in and dealing with any ‘how was your day?’ questions.

Finn is the only non family member/colleague/campaign person who is close to Alicia in any way and she doesn’t mind being vulnerable in front of him, most likely because when she first met him she was at her lowest ebb. There is a connection that goes beyond anything romantic that may or may not happen in the future (yes I yelled make out at the screen for the second week in a row) and Alicia is far less guarded with Finn than she currently is with anyone else on the show. Finn has also been told in the past that he is obsessed with his own pain/achievements by his ex-wife (the fact that she is now referred to as his ex-wife is also important in terms of future hook ups as it reinforces his singledom) and there is common ground here too.

In what was not meant to be a photo op Finn suggests to Alicia that she come volunteer at the same soup kitchen as he does – flirty banter times one million with the word saint being bandied around – and when she turns up in her super expensive suit from court they joke about what she is wearing. What is a joke between them including how he dresses down well (“you know I have a consultant”) turns into a bad news item for Alicia as she is photographed washing what looks like a clean pan while on the phone and in her fancy attire. This is not a good look to stop those entitlement claims and Alicia fixates on the already clean aspect of the pot the story is reporting. It is a small detail, but because she did actually do the cleaning it really pisses her off. The photo itself is kind of hilarious as it does make her look out of touch and shows just how easy it is to use the Saint Alicia brand against her. It’s the quotation marks around “works” that has got to hurt.

the good wife 6.08 Saint AliciaWhat this demonstrates is how naive Alicia is with campaigning and the press even though she has been through this process with Peter on several occasions. The soup kitchen was never meant to be a photo op situation and yet it became one as pretty much everyone has a camera in their pocket. Eli and Johnny are both incredibly experienced with every aspect of a campaign and Alicia finally gives herself over to them after this turns into a PR disaster. Protesting against using this as a moment to sell herself Alicia relents and goes through with an actual photo op dressed in suitably casual clothing – which explains this behind the scenes photo – although I’m surprised that Sally didn’t find this to be just as disingenuous as it is clearly a second attempt to get this moment right (even though the initial photo wasn’t staged). Alicia doesn’t actually have to become a better person, she just has to appear that way to the voters and if she really wants to be a good person; Eli will tell her “where to send the check.”

Alicia isn’t just getting called entitled, she is using it as a way to get through to Cary as his testimony in the mock trial is pretty much him raging and coming across terribly on the fake stand. If he does this in real court a jury will find him guilty. While Alicia has been mostly absent on commenting on strategy she does give him some excellent advice as he is so lost in his own indignation, he is making it impossible for anyone else to see the injustice. Cary is acting like a privileged brat and it is a front to cover how scared he really is; Matt Czuchry is doing a stellar job at showing the rage and fear. His ties and shirts continue to pattern clash including paisley and stripes followed by stripes and plaid. Cary still looks good, but the bold attire doesn’t do enough to cover the cracks. And never make jokes about Beyonce, the Beygency is always watching.

The good Wife 6.08 CaryPart of him is all “I could never go to jail for 10 years” but the way he shakes the desk and yells at Diane reveals he is aware of the possibility and he can’t quite believe it. Kalinda has been a stabilizing factor, however she can’t be all that he wants her to be and not just because of the 30 feet rule that has been imposed as she is still in a relationship with Lana. It is hard to tell how much Kalinda cares for someone as there is always an aspect of self-preservation, but the hair down softer side and the breaking of the card Bishop gave her indicates this is more than just sex and a good opportunity to get information.

There is a variety of gender politics on display this week including the ripped from the headlines case involving rape on a college campus and how the universities are failing to protect their students. The focus group is told about this case and there is a divide in the room with it kicking off when one of the men refers to Alicia as a feminist activist like it is a bad thing. It is an important issue and The Good Wife has a track history of highlighting these kinds of real life crimes in a fictionalized form without sensationalizing it. Entitlement and perception comes into play with questions of how much alcohol was consumed and the only reason this student is expelled is due to a drug infraction. They win the case without really winning it.

We continue down the Alicia is still learning about campaigning tour with a valuable lesson of listen to Eli and Johnny, don’t fixate on one comment and accept that perhaps thanks to your privileged position you will come across as entitled. Also give good advice to your colleague who is in danger of going to prison and don’t listen to Eli when it comes to which cases you take on no matter how much it might impact your campaign as some things are worth more than voter points. Oh and now it’s just Alicia versus Prady as Castro has dropped out in a curiously out of the blue fashion.

Julie Hammerle

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